Outsourcing emissions: Japan's double standard

According to a new report by Greenpeace, Japan is one of the only countries still actively building domestic and foreign coal-fired power plants, and is the second biggest public investor in overseas coal plant projects among the G20 countries. Following another Greenpeace report on atmospheric sulphur levels deriving from coal combustion, reported on here, Greenpeace has called coal “the single worst contributor to global climate change, responsible for almost half the world’s carbon dioxide emissions”.

Greenpeace has accused overseas Japanese coal projects of employing far less strict emission control measures than measures taken at domestic sites. Greenpeace calls this “a deadly double standard” that allows Japanese energy companies to pollute the air of other Asian countries through practices that they would not allow in Japan. For example, the Nghi Son 2 coal-fired power plant in Vietnam is supported by Japanese public financing agencies, and is allowed to emit nearly 10 times more air pollution than is allowed in Japan. Similar limits have been applied to coal-fired plants in Indonesia at the Indramayu plant, where 14 times more sulphur is allowed to be emitted into the atmosphere. Greenpeace includes numerous other examples of lacklustre regulation on Japanese-sponsored foreign plants. The foreign plants in countries like the aforementioned Vietnam and Indonesia, as well as India and Bangladesh are reported to emit up to 13 times more nitrogen oxide, 33 times more sulphur dioxide and 40 times more dust than their Japanese counterparts. These projects are the results of $16.7bn of Japanese finance specifically in countries with low emissions standards.

The consequences outlined by Greenpeace range from environmental catastrophe to premature death. The high emission levels have the potential to cause acid rain, further damaging local ecosystems in the various Asian countries. These pollutants put vulnerable groups like children and the elderly at the most risk for developing respiratory diseases. Greenpeace estimates that the pollutants and environmental consequences could cause between 148,000 and 410,000 premature deaths.

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